Hawaii – Hilo

Welcome to Hilo; the home of Volcanoes National Park and that was our first stop of the day after debarking from the ship.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is on Hawaii Island (the Big Island). At its heart are the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa active volcanoes. The Crater Rim Drive passes steam vents and the Jaggar Museum, which features volcanology exhibits and a viewpoint overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater. Thick ferns mark the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku). The Chain of Craters Road weaves over lava. Trails crisscross the park.

We all really enjoyed exploring Volcanoes National Park.  It was exciting to see an active volcano and go through the lava tube.

Mr. Pineapple guy was our mascot for this trip and he enjoyed being along for the ride.

Here’s a road shown below that has had parts covered by lava several times due to eruptions of the Kīlauea volcano.

Our next stop was the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center.  For over thirty years the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation has brought delicious macadamia nuts roasted to golden perfection. You can visit the factory, enjoy free samples and shop for a delightful array of island treats and gifts including the exclusive selection of MAUNA LOA products found nowhere else.  It was a fun stop.

We then really all wanted to see one of the beaches that has black sand made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools.  It was quite a ride to get to one of them, but we finally found one and it was worth the drive.

We had a great day exploring Hilo and spent the evening on the back deck of the ship enjoying this spectacular sunset.

Please come back next week as we go to our next port of call; Kona!

Hawaii – Maui

This was our view as we were sailing away from Oahu.  We were on Norwegian; Pride of American ship.  We got a balcony room as I really enjoy ordering my breakfast and eating it out on the balcony.  Funny story about our rooms though.  We all had rooms in a row with the first one starting at the end of the hallway.  Every night it sounded as if we were in a bowling alley.  I am guessing we were just below one of the restaurants and that they were preparing for the next day, but boy was it loud for some of us.

Our first port of call was Maui.  We had two days there and we made the most of it.

The first day in Maui we split up in two groups.  One group went to the Molokini Crater to snorkel and the other went to a lavender farm.  Molokini is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater which forms a small, uninhabited islet located in ʻAlalākeiki Channel between the islands of Maui and Kahoolawe, within Maui County in Hawaii.  Here are some pictures that were taken at both spots.

I was fascinated by the green lizard that we saw at the lavender farm.  We all enjoyed our trips and met back up at the ship and drove together to the Maui Brewing Company.

I think we had worn out my sister and my niece as they look very tired in the picture above.

The next day we again split up in two groups; one went on the bicycle ride down Haleakala.  Depending where you get started from on Maui, it can take you up to two hours to drive the Haleakala Highway and then up the winding Haleakala Crater Road leading to the summit of Haleakala. It’s an early wake-up call, but the reward is well worth it. Drive past the Park Visitors Center at 7,000 feet to get to the Haleakala Visitors Center at 9,740 feet. Try to arrive at the Haleakala Visitor Center no later than a half hour before the sun rises — earlier for a good spot. In the summer the sun rises as early as 5:38 AM, in the winter as late as 6:55 AM. The color of the sky and clouds before daybreak are stunning. Here’s a picture that they took from the top.

The rest of the group went to see the Ioa Needle.  Iao Valley is a lush, stream-cut valley in West Maui.  Because of its natural environment and history, it has become a tourist location.  We had bought a pineapple and used the Mr. Potato Head pieces to make him Mr. Pineapple Man and he ended up being our Hawaiian mascot so he went along with the group going to the Ioa Valley.

From there, we decided to start the road to Hana.  I’ve been told that the Road to Hana is more than just a great drive through a beautiful area of Maui. Most visitors tend to zip to and from Hana with a checklist of sights to photograph. This is the wrong way to do it. Do your due diligence beforehand, decide on a few locations that look the most intriguing, and take your time at each location.  We just wanted to take the road to a winery we read about, but sadly it was closed.

We met up with the other group and went to lunch at Mama’s Fish House.  Mama’s Fish House is a world famous restaurant on Maui’s North Shore, featuring Hawaiian fish brought  daily by fishermen.  This is a must to eat at if you can get reservations.  We made them weeks in advance and while it is pricey; it is so worth it.

The food was awesome and we even tried poi.  I’m not exactly sure what poi is, but it’s not something I would try again.  We were all so tired from our bike ride and exploration of Maui that after lunch, we all decided to go back to the ship and rest.

Please join me next week as we travel to our next port of call.

Hawaii

We are very fortunate that we have such a good group that we travel with.  It was so nice that for this trip both my sister and my niece came along with our travel group.  It was fun to be with both of them for the ten days we were in Hawaii.

We had all decided that the best way to see the islands was to do a cruise.  There was only one cruise line that starts in Hawaii and that was Norwegian Cruise Lines.  The ports for this cruise was Honolulu; Maui; Hilo; Kona and Kauai.

We went a few days early to explore Honolulu before taking off on our cruise. I do have to give a shout out to my niece for her stepping in on the flight out to help a passenger having a health issue.  She is a nurse and was the first to notice this man go down and she helped him until the plane could land and get him safely off the plane.  We were diverted to another airport to land so we were about an hour late for our connection to Hawaii.  However, Delta held our flight and we were able to make that connection.

Honolulu, on the island of Oahu’s south shore, is the capital of Hawaii and gateway to the U.S. island chain. The Waikiki neighborhood is its center for dining, nightlife and shopping, famed for its iconic crescent beach backed by palms and high-rise hotels, with volcanic Diamond Head crater looming in the distance. Sites relating to the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor include the USS Arizona Memorial.

Our first morning in Hawaii we decided to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Millions of people from all over the world come to this majestic setting to see for themselves where World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941.

Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,000 miles from the West Coast of America and 4,000 miles from Japan, Pearl Harbor serves as a central gathering place for the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which consists of 9 historic locations in 3 of the westernmost United States – California, Alaska, and Hawaii. Of these, five are located within Pearl Harbor itself: the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial, and parts of Ford Island and Battleship Row.

The USS Arizona Memorial is a must-see destination for all individuals coming to Hawaii, drawing more than 1.8 million visitors each year from all over the world. Visitors are free to explore the grounds of the $65 million Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, which was expanded from the original 3 to 17 acres, in December of 2011.

We rented cars so it was easy to get about there and our next stop was The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific; also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery.   It serves as a memorial to honor those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces , and those who have given their lives in doing so.  Millions of visitors visit the cemetery each year, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii.

Below is a picture of the view from the Punchbowl.

We then went to see Diamond Head State Monument which offers breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu.  The trail takes you to the edge of a 300,000 year old crater. This is a rather strenuous hike so some of us passed on this, but the others that did go up to the top said it was worth the hike up.  Again, I do not usually post pictures of our group, but this is one I couldn’t pass up posting and I hope they forgive me:)

We spent almost a whole day exploring the North Shore.  It was so worth our extra days on Honolulu exploring this area and I would highly recommend doing so.

Please join me next week as we start our Hawaiian cruise adventure!

 

Cruise – Bahamas and Key West

In March of 2012, my sisters and I went on a Karen Kingsbury and Friends Cruise.  Karen Kingsbury is a Christian fiction writer and all of us really enjoy her books so we were excited to meet her on this cruise.  This was a short cruise on the smallest of the ships with Royal Caribbean; The Majesty of the Seas.

We left out of the port of Miami and our first stop was the Bahamas.  We enjoyed just taking a water taxi to check out the Atlantis which is a top resort on Paradise Island.  It was fun to walk around and see what we were allowed to see without being a guest.

We then went to the straw market.  The straw market is a traditional open-air market selling handwoven straw crafts, Bahamian souvenirs & tourist trinkets.  I don’t believe any of us bought anything, but it was fun to see all the colorful items that was being sold there.

Our next stop was going to be Royal Caribbean’s private island, Coco Cay, but the weather was not good for the ship to go there so we ended up spending the night in the Bahamas and an extra day there.  We did not get off the ship for the extra day as we just decided to explore the ship a bit and relax in the sun.

I don’t usually include pictures of the people I go on vacation with, but this is a picture of my sisters and Karen Kingsbury.  She was very accessible and posed for pictures with whoever wanted them.  As I said the cruise was the Karen Kingsbury and Friends Cruise and some of her friends were Matthew West, Mandisa, Tim Halperin, Britt Nicole and Anthem Lights as well as various family members.  It was fun to meet all these people and the performances were wonderful.

Our last stop was Key West.  Key West is Florida’s southernmost point, lying roughly 90 miles north of Cuba. Famed for its pastel-hued, conch-style houses and many, many bars.

Turtles that we saw on Key West.

We had a great time on this ship.  We decided one afternoon to go to Johnny Rockets.  You do have to pay for this, but for a minimal charge we got a shake, hamburger and fries and the waiters put on a show for us.

This was a great trip and we all enjoyed meeting Karen Kingsbury and her friends.  Cheers to another great trip!

 

 

Gatlinburg, Smoky Mountains

Gatlinburg is a mountain town in eastern Tennessee and is known as a gateway to the roughly 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many of its key attractions offer sweeping views of the neighboring park, including the 407-ft. Space Needle observation tower and the Sky Lift, a 2.1-mile aerial cable car.

We had a rather large group going to Gatlinburg in late summer of 2012.  We left Cincinnati after breakfast and decided to stop for lunch in Knoxville at the Downtown Grill and Brewery.  I think if the name of a restaurant has the word brewery in it; the guys must stop to test the local beers.

After our lunch stop, we headed on to Gatlinburg.  Since there were so many of us staying, we rented a rather large house.  Everyone had their own room and there were two of everything in the kitchen; two stoves; two refrigerators; two dishwashers, etc.  Below is a picture of the house that we rented.  You can see just how big the place was.  I personally loved the views from the deck which you can see from the pictures below just how beautiful those views were!

There is lots of hiking in Gatlinburg and a number of our group did that every day.  Below are some pictures that they took during their hikes.

The not adventurous ladies decided to drive the artist loop.  The Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community, also known as the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, is a series of shops and galleries along an 8-mile two-laned loop in Sevier County, Tennessee east of Gatlinburg.  We had a great time going through all the shops along this loop.

And of course there was a brewery in Gatlinburg and the guys went there one day for lunch.

Going to Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a great weekend get away and we all had a great time!